Last week I wrote about my family’s decision to use a potted herb, Rosemary as our eco-friendly Christmas tree option this year. Responses have been overwhelming. Many people seem delighted to be offered a sanctioned solution to opt out of the chains of the self-defeating culture norm of ending the innocent lives of such generous beings as trees. Other people have offered sincerely helpful suggestions and alternatives. Pam Sissons and Kathy Vilim both reached out with the idea to decorate an outdoor tree, as seen in the photo above. In fact, Kathy informed me that this is the synthesis of our tree decorating rituals: existing trees outside were lit up and strung with popcorn and cranberries for the birds. This is a delightfully eco-friendly alternative to cutting tree down, and I am sure the practice brings joy to many around the country. It does look like a lot of work to me though.
Purchasing native species trees from a local nursery in a pot with roots intact was another suggestion from many colleagues. Again, Kathy Vilim has some lovely reflections on this earth loving Christmas practice. This method (which my parents participated in for most of my childhood) supports local farmers and when the trees are planted at a later date, conifer habitat is actually added to the local ecosystem. (There you go, Cedar Waxwing!) Care needs to be taken that the trees are grown organically because the pesticides used at Christmas tree farms (Round-up and Malathion) are toxic to humans and pets.
If the plebian practice of killing a live tree is utilized, Rodale has some suggestions for eco-friendly end results, rather than a simple waste of cellulose tissue. After the holiday uproar, the tree can be chipped up into mulch and added to garden beds to feed plants and suppress weeds. In Louisiana, conservation groups rally together to re-use Christmas trees by adding them to coastal wetlands and so contribute to erosion mitigation. A similar method is the custom of conservation groups in Illinois who can augment the nesting habitat of native herons by thoughtful placement of Christmas trees.
Rodale also suggests, in the same article, a way to acquire branches for wreaths and other decorations that won’t involve cutting branches from native trees that are trying to make a living in our eco-system. The tree nurseries will naturally have LOTS of downed branches, which are available upon request. They smell as lovely as a live tree, and have already been cut so no proactive damage has been engaged in by the consumer. This creative response may be the best idea for eco-friendly Christmas trees: a more thoughtful use of existing resources.